One of the key thrusts of the Infocomm Media 2025 plan is to build a vibrant infocomm media ecosystem that will let successful Singapore-made content, products, and services bloom. A major step towards achieving this was the introduction of Accreditation@IDA in 2014 to help young innovative Singapore-based tech companies build their credentials and be better placed to win projects by government agencies and large enterprises.
Accreditation Gains Traction
Within the first year, the programme has helped eight accredited companies to build in a healthy pipeline of $20 million worth of governmentproject opportunities covering across 50 government agencies.
Networking during the 1st Anniversary Bash for Accreditation@IDA.
To date, more than $2.2 million worth of government projects have been awarded by agencies such as the Ministry of Manpower, Housing & Development Board, Immigration & Checkpoints Authority of Singapore, JTC Corporation, Economic Development Board, Sentosa Development Corporation, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic and Infocomm Development Authority.
Another $2million worth of projects are currently under consideration for award by March 2016.
By the end of 2015, 11 companies have been accredited — and the number is expected to grow to 15 by March 2016. The accreditation evaluation process and momentum in winning projects also helped accredited companies to significantly increase their company valuations, with six companies closing or in the process of securing over $20 million in new growth capital.
IDA will continue to scale and refine the Accreditation programme over the next few years, helping accredited firms strengthen their product, build up their track record and facilitate their fund raising activities.
Building Amazing Startups
In other efforts to nurture fledgling tech companies, Singapore’s biggest all-in-one start-up facility BASH (Build Amazing Startups Here) was opened in February at Block 79 JTC LaunchPad @ one-north.
Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim (front row, second from left) touring BASH during the launch event.
An initiative driven by IDA’s investment arm Infocomm Investments Pte Ltd (IIPL), BASH brings together members and partners of the tech building community across the entire value chain - from accelerators, investors, incubators to entrepreneurs. Spanning more than 25,000 square feet, BASH provides start-ups with facilities such as a prototyping lab, valuable mentorship and community networks to support them ideation to acceleration, incubation and expansion.
The facility complements the multiple accelerator programmes that IIPL is running with partners such as Joyful Frog Digital Incubator and Startupbootcamp FinTech. Start-up teams that have undergone acceleration can be housed at a co-working and collaboration space in BASH to continue receiving guidance as they build business traction and market access.
Bringing Singapore Startups to the World
IIPL is also helping the start-ups to find their footing in the global market. In January, it set up a new office as part of Block 71 San Francisco, an initiative shared with NUS Enterprise and SingTel Innov8. Like the London IIPL office which was established in October 2014, the aim is to help Singapore-based start-up teams in their overseas expansion to these leading tech-innovation hubs.
In other efforts to help Singapore start-ups expand their global footprint, IIPL led 13 Singapore-based tech start-ups to represent Singapore at the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Trade Show in Austin, Texas in March. It was the largest-ever contingent of Singapore tech start-ups to SXSW, some of which had recently graduated from IIPL’s acceleration efforts.
They showcased a diverse range of emerging technologies including 3D printing, image search and recognition, cryptocurrency, space debris removal satellites and data analytics that are able to serve the needs of the US and global market.
Strengthening Singapore’s Position as a Tech Innovation Hub
Professor Fiona Murray addressing the audience at the MIT Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship Programme gala dinner.
Meanwhile, Singapore is also establishing itself as a tech innovation hub of its own. In April, some 200 top founders, investors and corporate bigwigs gathered here for the Founders Forum Smart Nation Singapore, which was being held in Asia for the first time. They came from the US, Europe and across Asia to explore how they can use Singapore as their best gateway to tackle the world’s toughest urban challenges.
In July, Singapore also hosted the MIT Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship Programme for the first time, clinching the valuable opportunity to showcase its burgeoning innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem to some 100 innovators who flew in from seven other participating regions – London, Morocco, Moscow, Puerto Rico, Seoul, Qatar and Valencia – for the programme.
Building the Singapore Core
The building of a vibrant infocomm media ecosystem will require Singapore to develop more creators and innovators by grooming talent and developing the right mindset from young.
A fun hands-on tech learning experience awaits at IDALabs@NLB.
“As Singapore moves ahead in its Smart Nation journey, there will be huge demand for infocomm and media professionals with a range of skills. While we can attract more talents to join us, I believe that we must equip our own people with the relevant skills and deepen the experience of our Singapore core,” said Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, at the launch of Infocomm Media 2025.
To expose more people to tech, IDA opened its third Labs facility at Jurong Regional Library in November - the first of its kind to be located in the heartlands. The family-friendly IDA Labs@NLB is aimed at encouraging hands-on experimentation and creation as a new way of learning.
It gives the library-going community exposure to maker kits such as Arduino to tinker and create, as well as network and exchange skills with like-minded individuals.
Sparking Ideas Through Data Challenges
A series of data challenges and hackathons were held throughout the year to inspire and attract tech talent.
In February, the finals of the Data Discovery Challenge were held, uncovering gems such as an app that made use of data visualisation to help business owners develop better business strategies based on human footfall and interest patterns.
The Challenge called for the pooling of data sets from different public and private sector sources. It involved the use of a federated dataset discovery mechanism called the Federated Dataset Registry (FDSR) to facilitate dataset discovery in the private sector.
In another data challenge which culminated in October, students from five institutes of higher learning (IHLs) were tasked to develop solutions, working prototypes and visualisations using datasets, with at least one dataset from the DaaS platform.
The aim of the Data-Driven Innovations (DDI) challenge: drive the students’ understanding of big data, dataset use, and the mashing of multiple datasets. They came up with solutions that included the use of data journalism to enhance the visitor experience at shopping malls, the use of DaaS‘s transport related datasets to provide smoother rides for commuters and a monitoring app powered by elderly activity analysis data to ensure effective care-giving.
Data challenges were also being held halfway across the globe to reach out to the Singapore diaspora. During the opening of IIPL’s San Francisco office, IDA announced the launch of a Global Data Challenge for the technology community in the US, which includes Singaporeans studying, working or setting up business in the Bay Area.
At the heart of the Global Data Challenge was a rich collection of more than 8,000 open government data sets that included public transportation commuter patterns, bed occupancy rates in public hospitals, common health problems, air quality, household electricity consumption and other trends in Singapore. These could be meshed and analysed with private sector datasets to bring about new insights on challenges that needed to be tackled.
Garnering Interest Through Hackathons
Other hackathons that filled the Singapore tech calendar in 2015 also drew strong interest.
In July, Hackathon@SG and the co-located MIT Hacking Medicine@SG (HackMed), which was held in Singapore for the first time, saw a massive turnout of over 1,100 from diverse professions such as healthcare, entrepreneurs, programmers, designers and students, making it possibly the largest hackathon held in Singapore to date.
Hackathon@SG broke the record books with over 1,100 participants taking part in all the affiliated events.
The event attracted participants as young as five, and resulted in the creation of more than 300 prototypes and applications in the quest to help solve Smart Nation challenges. Some examples of solutions included a sensor-based walking stick to guide elderly and dementia patients safely home, a GPS-based pricing system to regulate commercial drone activities and even a smart living solution that focuses on entertainment and remotely controls devices at home.
“The overwhelming response to Hackathon@SG has shown that there is no shortage of passionate working adults, students and kids in Singapore who are able to create applications to benefit society and build our Smart Nation,” said Ms Jacqueline Poh, Managing Director, IDA
Maximising Existing Tech Potential
IDA is also strengthening its collaboration with industry to train ICT talents in line with SkillsFuture, a set of national initiatives aimed at enabling every individual to maximise his or her potential.
Plans are underway to scale the number of trainees under company based training programmes which helps fast-track fresh graduates into technical specialist roles.
To help companies recruit, mentor and train Singaporean entrant-level professionals, IDA partnered Google for the second intake of the Squared Data and Analytics Programme in 2015. This programme trains young professionals looking to enter the data and analytics sector in Singapore the skills they need to gain a competitive edge.
All graduates from the first batch were placed in data related positions after graduation and the second batch of professionals are due to graduate in February 2016.
IDA teamed up with NCS to launch a customised NCS Solutions for Urbanised Future (SURF) training programme. This programme enables participants to quickly acquire technical skills in applications development and system programming for client projects. Currently, 45 young professionals have started their training.
Networking at the launch of the IDA-General Assembly collaboration.
To support learning-by-doing, IDA partnered General Assembly (GA) to launch its first career accelerator in Singapore. The GA programme provides individuals with a passion in technology a fast track to opportunities in the ICT industry.
It reaches out to a wide spectrum of people from mid-career switchers without an ICT background yet interested in a career in tech; current IT professionals interested in upgrading to prepare for new tech positions; and fresh graduates with a passion to join or build a tech start-up. The first two courses to be offered were User Experience Design and Web Development Immersives.
To address the industry’s challenges in hiring of software developers, IDA has tied up with Proxor, a Carnegie Mellon University spinoff, to introduce an innovative developers’ validation tool (Software Development Examination) to help benchmark software developers’ capabilities against international standards and increase effectiveness of the hiring process for industry players.
In addition, IDA has partnered SITF to launch the SITF- Proxor Certified Examination Centre to help administer Proxor examinations. Currently over 500 assessment has taken place in Singapore.
Grooming the Next Generation
Going further upstream, there is a strong push to develop computational thinking as a national capability, open up opportunities for the young to advance their ICT careers through structured internships and certifications, and grow Singapore’s talent pool in critical areas through tech conversion and placement.
IDA EDC Steve Leonard onstage with the NIS awardees at the IDA Scholarship Ceremony.
To attract high-performing GCE ‘O’ level students to pursue ICT related courses at polytechnic, IDA introduced the Infocomm Polytechnic (iPoly) Scholarships in 2015 and has awarded 23 students with the iPoly scholarships. IDA also awarded the National Infocomm Scholarships to 26 youths to pursue their undergraduate studies at local and foreign universities.
To prepare the next generation of tech talent for the industry, IDA’s internship programme equipped over 130 selected ICT students to date with industry exposure. The programme also supports students to acquire industry relevant skillsets through professional courses and certifications, mentorship and industry projects.
IDA has identified 70 (CITREP endorsed courses) and 14 courses offered by IDA Silver Infocomm Junction for support under the SkillsFuture Credits. Singapore Citizens aged 25 and above, can utilize their SkillsFuture Credits for development and upgrading of tech skills. This list of courses focuses mainly on Smart Nation areas (ie. software development, cybersecurity, data analytics and networks).
“We will help Singaporeans acquire the necessary skills to thrive in the new environment,” said Dr Yaacob. “This is in line with Singapore’s SkillsFuture effort, to invest in our people throughout their lives.”